Tom Kelly

Tom was born in Jarrow and now lives further up the Tyne at Blaydon. He has had a varied career from his first job in a Jarrow shipyard Time-Office; to a song writing contract and writing the BBCTV musical documentary Kelly, with Alan Price . He has had a great deal of work produced by the Customs House, South Shields, a venue he regards as home, with six full-length stage plays, including I Left My Heart in Roker Park which has been produced four times. Tom’s musicals include: The Dolly Mixtures, Geordie, Tom & Catherine, Dan Dare, The Machine Gunners (all but Geordie written with John Miles). In 2016 he was a runner-up in the Journal Culture Awards, in the Writer of the Year category, for Geordie-The Musical, produced by the Customs House in 2015 and reprised in October 2017 at the Tyne Theatre & Opera House, Newcastle. 2016 also saw his eighth poetry collection Spelk published and subsequently re-printed by Red Squirrel Press. Of late his poetry has appeared in a number of UK magazines and in the anthology Land of Three Rivers-The Poetry of North-East England.  He was Writer-in-Residence at the Word, South Shields in 2018 and his short story collection BEHIND THE WALL was published by Red Squirrel Press. In 2019 his play BOBBY ROBSON SAVED MY LIFE toured, THE DOLLY MIXTURES MUSICAL reprised and LOVE SONGS, a play with music toured the north-east. His most recent poetry collection THIS SMALL PATCH was published in 2020 by Red Squirrel Press. NO LOVE RATIONS a short story collection was published by POSTBOX PRESS in April, 2022. Most of the stories have appeared in UK magazines.

Most recent published work:




The Wrong Jarrow (Smokestack Books, 2007)

Dreamers In A Cold Climate (Red Squirrel Press, 2008)

Love-Lines (Red Squirrel Press, 2009)

Somewhere In Heaven (Red Squirrel Press, 2010)

History Talks (Red Squirrel Press, 2011)

The Time Office New and Selected Poems (Red Squirrel Press, 2012)

I Know Their Footsteps (Red Squirrel Press, 2013)

Spelk (Red Squirrel Press, 2016)

This Small Patch (Red Squirrel Press) 2020




Nothing Like the Wooden Horse (Red Squirrel Press, 2009)

Produced by the Customs House, South Shields, March 2009 and directed by Jackie Fielding.


Short Story Pamphlet


The Last Clockwork Whippet on the Tyne (Postbox Press, 2017)


Short Story Collection


Behind the Wall & Other Stories (Postbox Press, 2018)

 No Love Rations

Most recent plays & musicals

GEORDIE -THE MUSICAL August-September 2015 The Customs House, South Shields & Tyne Theatre October 2017

THE DOLLY MIXTURES MUSICAL (Music John Miles) August –September 2016 & August 2019

JOBLING MUSICAL Performed reading (Music Steve Thompson) June 24 2017 At The Word, South Shields With Westoe Brass Band

LOVE SONGS new play with music regional tour October 2018 & September-October 2019

BOBBY ROBSON SAVED MY LIFE July-August 2019 @ Customs House, Regent Theatre, Ipswich and Tyne Theatre, Newcastle


Plays & Musicals Chronological Order:

1.’KELLY’ MUSICAL DOCUMENTARY (With Alan Price) July 16-17th 1977 BBC TV ONE & TWO Screened 12 Feb & 15th July 1978

  1. JARROW HALLMARKS (With Ken Reay) 1987, & 2012
  2. SOMETHING LIKE LOVE (With Ken Reay) Feb 1989, Play reading. Live Theatre
  3. GIRLS TALK Live Theatre & Soho Poly Theatre, Dec 1988 & Published 1998
  4. THREE DEVOTED SISTERS Wins Bede Playwriting Comp 1989 & Nottingham Playwriting Comp 1997 & 1998 Published by Smith Scripts 2017
  5. SECURITY FOR LIFE 1990 Plays @ Live Theatre (with Ken Reay)
  6. WHEN I NEED YOU aka FOG ON THE TYNE (With Carol Cooke) 1996
  7. I LEFT MY HEART IN ROKER PARK September 1997, Feb 1998, Feb 2004 & Sept-October 2014
  8. THE MACHINE GUNNERS Musical (With Ken Reay & Music John Miles) September 1998 & Feb 2010
  9. TYNE SONGS South Tyneside Community Play (With Carol Cooke) 1998
  10. RIDE A WHITE SWAN 1998 & 2000 Published by Smith Scripts 2017
  11. TOM & CATHERINE MUSICAL (Music John Miles), 1999, June 2001 & Outdoor performance Bents Park 2006 & 2010 Encore review with DAN DARE & G & S Society @ Customs House March 2019
  12. BEHIND THE WALL Play Feb 2001 & published June 2005
  13. THE BLACK HILL Blaydon Community Play June 2002
  14. SECRETS MONOLOGUES Feb 2002 Inc AUTUMN DAYS September 2008 Published by Smith Scripts 2017
  15. LOVE IN NE32 October 2002 Monologues
  16. DAN DARE MUSICAL March (Music John Miles) 2003
  17. FAMILY TIES September 2003
  18. BABY LOVE PLAY September 2004 & March-May 2016
  22. NOTHING LIKE THE WOODEN HORSE March 2009. Play published by Red Squirrel Press
  23. HUNGRY HEARTS AND HEADS WEA October 2010 Tour
  24. TALKING TOM MONOLOGUES March 17th-27th 2010 Tour
  25. I LOVE KENT WALTON September 2013@ Customs House. Published by Smith Scripts January 2018
  26. THE GIRL AND THE UNICORN CHILDRENS’ PLAY FEB 2014 with songs by Tom Kelly & Ian Ravenscroft Published by Smith Scripts January 2018
  27. GEORDIE -THE MUSICAL August-September 2015 & Tyne Theatre October 2017
  28. THE DOLLY MIXTURES MUSICAL (Music John Miles) August –September 2016 & August 2019
  29. JOBLING MUSICAL Performed reading (Music Steve Thompson) June 24 2017* At The Word, South Shields
  30. Love Songs new play with music regional tour October 2018 & September-October 2019
  31. Bobby Robson Saved My Life July-August 2019 @ Customs House, Regent Theatre, Ipswich and Tyne Theatre, Newcastle



Tom Kelly Publications 

Poetry Chapbooks/Pamphlets

Gibbeting of Wm. Jobling -Bede Gallery Press, 1972

Still With Me- Johnson Green Publishing, 1986

John Donne in Jarrow- Here Now, 1993

Their Lives-Tears in the Fence, 1995

In The Distance- K.T. Publications, 1998

That Time of Life- K.T. Publications, 2002

The Picture From Here- Sand Chapbooks, 2004

Poetry Collections

The Wrong Jarrow- Smokestack Books, 2007

Dreamers In A Cold Climate-Red Squirrel Press, 2008

Love-Lines- Red Squirrel Press, 2009

Somewhere In Heaven- Red Squirrel Press,2010

History Talks- Red Squirrel Press,2011

The Time Office: New and Selected Poems, Red Squirrel Press, 2012

I Know Their Footsteps, Red Squirrel Press, 2013

Spelk- Red Squirrel Press, 2016

This Small Patch Red Squirrel Press,2020


Nothing Like The Wooden Horse-Red Squirrel Press, 2009

Short Story, pamphlet,

The Last Clockwork Whippet on the Tyne, Postbox Press, 2007

Short Stories, collection

Behind The Wall & Other Stories-Postbox Press, 2018

Records/ TV Musicals/Album

As lyricist/book writer

The Hookey Mat play, songs for BBC TV, 1975


The Hooky Mat (BBC North East, 1 October 1974; BBC 2, Network, 10 May 1975) is the only one of these drama-docs which appears not to have survived. It is described in the Radio Times as ‘A fantasy devised for the 1974 Newcastle Festival’, written and directed by Dave Walker and produced by Roger Burgess, featuring Alan Hockey (who played Matt Robson’s father in Sinker’s Row) and Lizzie McKenzie, with music by Lamplight: “Times are changing for Mrs Cannybody now that the All-Seeing, All-Encompassing Super Council is here. Trouble is, all these new regulations. You’ve even got to have a licence to make a hooky mat!” (Radio Times, 9 May 1975, p. 21) [3]

Songs with Dave Price for Lamplight & Cold Comfort

Lamplight-Single, All Time Loser, Polydor Records, 1975

Kelly-written with Alan Price, 1977/78

Marianne Faithfull-single, The Way You Want Me To Be, 1976 & several times since.

Cold Comfort-In The Can, album Jet Records, 1978

Cold Comfort, Phone In, Single, 1978

The Machine Gunners with Ken Reay, Music John Miles 1998, 2010

Tom & Catherine Musical 1999, 2001 & 2019 with music John Miles

Dan Dare-musical 2003 Music John Miles

Geordie-musical 2015 & 2017 with Traditional Geordie Songs

Jobling Musical 2017 With Steve Thompson

The Dolly Mixtures-musical 2016 & 2019 with  John Miles


Our Catherine, with Unified Media, 2018

The Place We Love, with Unified Media, 2019

Little Ireland, with Gary Wilkinson, 2008

Jarrow Voices, with Gary Wilkinson, 2009

Donna-Lisa Healey Documentary with my poems, 2014


Men of The Tyne with Andrew Hagan 



Some Reviews & Feedback on THIS SMALL PATCH from Red Squirrel Press

The overall effect, though, remains uplifting: this is poetry as archaeology and conservation, an exegi monumentum not to the poet himself but to the community he’s part of, and all the better for that.’

Extract of review from Tears in the Fence

‘I don’t suppose this is the sort of poetry that will win the kind pf prizes that people present to each other at prestigious meetings in the metropolis. It’s too down-to-earth, and doesn’t pretend to offer any supposed great ideas for the reader to ponder over. It records the poet’s world, his reflections and experiences, in a direct fashion. An environment of cold bedrooms, outside lavatories, and bitter memories probably wouldn’t appeal to those who think that poems should be like puzzles, or should look deep into the mind of the poet.  But if we open our eyes to see what is in front of them, there is a world, and a history, out there that requires our attention.  Tom Kelly is aware of it.’

Penniless Press

‘Kelly makes us look over our shoulders, he recalls us gently to memory of the terrible history that has brought us to where we are; he does so in hope that the same mistakes may not be repeated. ‘


‘This Small Patch weaves together Jarrow’s past with threads of moving reminisce to produce an evocative and poignant reflection upon life in the town.’

Matt Perry, Historian & Author

‘This Small Patch it’s so personal yet so universal. It introduces me to places I know. The making of my region, my people, & the making of me, of us! It’s wonderful and the best of Tom. Get your copy from Red Squirrel Press.’

Ray Spencer, Director of the Customs House, South Shields

‘Very much enjoying these poems by Tom Kelly about the genius loci of Jarrow. Beautifully done.

Professor John Tomaney, UCL.

This Small Patch available from Red Squirrel Press

 From Penniless Press

Review from Tears in the Fence

This Small Patch by Tom Kelly (Red Squirrel Press)

Posted on July 2, 2020 by tearsinthefence

Born in Jarrow, working at sixteen in the Merchant Dry Dock and still living not far away, Tom Kelly has been producing plays, music and film lyrics, short stories and poems for over thirty years in his native North-East. His lifetime’s knowledge of his locality continues, as the title here signals, to be his major source of subject-matter.

This collection ‒ his eighth from Red Squirrel in the last twelve years, not forgetting earlier ones from KT, Here Now, Smokestack, and (long ago) Tears in the Fence ‒ also contains song lyrics, speeches from the 1930s Jarrow Crusade, and explanatory prose commentaries. The lyrics lose something on their own, as lyrics generally do, but it’s worth checking the Men of the Tyne songs on the CD, and the documentary on YouTube, where they come into glorious full effect. Of the poems, there’s none here as brilliant as the earlier, savage ‘The Wrong Jarrow’ and no line as arresting as ‘‘No’ is the password, stamped on their hopes’ with its terrific repurposing of ‘password’. Nonetheless the majority preserve a solid style and feel across time: the present historic, the asyndeton, the low-key language and deferred epiphany. Sometimes Kelly’s poems appear to stop before they’ve got going. Sometimes they feel like notes. Moments of pure lyricism are sparse, like moments of joy:

The film’s something celestial
fallen into our laps,

More often, ‘fine phrasing’ gets cut with grim bathos:

Tears hold their own in the corners of her eyes
wishing they could be used in the pawn shop.

Admittedly, it’s not the most rewarding style if you’re in search of linguistic fireworks and metatextual car-chases. Other writers identifying with the skilled working class ‒ Tony Harrison or Andy Croft, say ‒ forge arabesques of wordplay alongside precise rhyming in difficult formalisms to enact toil and struggle and craftsmanship. But perhaps Kelly’s offers an equally authentic way to approach the mental universes of these industrial lives of outward good-fellowship but constricted emotional display, whose laconic narrators resist at all costs the flashy, long-worded or bombastic, and retreat into collocation or summary at the moment of truth:

There’s just a great gap of love
you endured
and my gaping wound.

Certainly, the poems sent me away to investigate Tyneside history: from Bede, whose monastery was in Jarrow, through England’s last gibbeting, the abrupt end of shipbuilding in 1933 and the unspeakable deprivation that led to the march to London; the post-war recovery, and then the early-Eighties destruction. All of these are touched upon and intermixed with family histories and 1950s childhood memories in a nice counterpointing of the social and personal. The concluding section returns to the present, memorialising the decline of Working Men’s Clubs – a topic entirely new to poetry? – alongside family elegies and scary portrayals of the erosion of personal memory. The overall effect, though, remains uplifting: this is poetry as archaeology and conservation, an exegi monumentum not to the poet himself but to the community he’s part of, and all the better for that.

Guy Russell 2nd July 2020

‘The overall effect, though, remains uplifting: this is poetry as archaeology and conservation, an exegi monumentum not to the poet himself but to the community he’s part of, and all the better for that.’


Guy Russell 2nd July 2020

Tears in the Fence

Spelk is from Red Squirrel Press. 


His seventh collection was I Know Their Footsteps and here he is reading from the collection

And here is a recent review (March 2015) of the collection.

Geordie-The Musical @ the Customs House Previews from August 21st. 2015

Geordie the musical can be seen again at the Tyne Theatre, Newcastle from October 11th to 14th 2017


At the Customs House South Shields August 21 until September 5th


Audience Reactions on You Tube




Newcastle Chronicle

Geordie Review: The Hartlepool Mail

‘Geordie‘ The Musical. ‘Let’s Go To The Movies’ Review


Five Stars from Trip Advisor

I LEFT MY HEART IN ROKER PARK, toured the north-east late in 2014.

I Love Kent Walton-A One man Play

Tom Kelly Plays @ Doollee

Men of the Tyne’ a multi-media show, incorporating film, stories and song has had two recent tours of the north-east including playing at The Customs House, Gala, Durham, Arts Centre Washington and Phoenix Theatre Blyth.

‘Glory in the Fire, ’ a film collaboration with Donna-Lisa Healey featuring Tom’s poems was screened at the Stanza Poetry Festival in March 2015.

Creativity Talks Podcast

March 2015

Contact: Tom Kelly


Tom Kelly Plays @ Doollee


Recent & Forthcoming work Includes:

Have a look at this link:



Staged in 1997, 99 and 2004 and now ten years later is back and up-dated.

Play by Tom Kelly. Performed by Paul Dunn.

And it is on tour in September-October 2014


I Left My Heart In Roker Park

“This funny and poignant drama is about far more that the beautiful game…The scene where Kevin describes his second wife’s death is superbly written and brilliantly acted by Paul Dunn…The raw emotional power of this scene, with Kevin’s overwhelming grief laid bare is theatre at its best.”

Rob Lawson Sunderland Echo



I Left My Heartin Roker Park



By Tom Kelly

Customs House, South Shields

19 September 2014

This one-man show is a tour de force. Written by Jarrow-born Tom Kelly in 1997, and first performed in 1997 as Sunderland AFC’s home of 99 years was demolished, this play has now been updated and revived for the first time since 2004.

Paul Dunn plays Kevin Halliday whose life – with its ups and downs of marriage, fatherhood and divorce – revolves around his love and passion for the other love of his life: Sunderland AFC. 

Regardless of the colour of the stripes on your replica shirt, this is a play that amply illustrates how deeply ingrained a sense of identity is intertwined with football in the psyche of so many people in the North East.

Kelly’s script skilfully balances pathos with humour while Dunn more than does the two-hour show justice. Never does he let the pace slacken – and whether you are a football fan or not you’ll enjoy this. If football is in your blood you’ll love it and if that blood runs red and white you’ll be likely to shed tears of pride as well as joy.

This short run includes performances at Washington Arts Centre and The Gala Theatre in Durham as well as The Customs House. Catch it if you can.

Rob Mason


Review by Peter Lathan

When a company takes a production on tour, even a local tour, and has to keep adding extra dates, you know that the play has to be something special. That’s the situation with Cranked Anvil’s production of Tom Kelly’s one-man play I Left My Heart in Roker Park. At the end of its last night (a performance which had been added because of popular demand) at the Customs House, the theatre announced there would be an additional performance in October.

So what is so special? To begin with, it’s a play about something which is almost a local religion – football. Not only that, it’s about a local team, Sunderland, which, because of its intense rivalry with neighbouring Newcastle, excites strong emotion, particularly in South Shields where the population seems to be evenly split between Mackem (Sunderland) and Magpie (Newcastle) supporters.

But actually, although football fever may be the initial driving force behind the play’s popularity, there’s more to I Left My Heart than “the beautiful game.”

It’s about an ordinary man, Kevin Halliday, who is a real Sunderland fan – in the true sense of the word, for he is a fanatic who has a detailed, almost encyclopaedic knowledge of the team from over thirty years of support. His life and the fortunes of the team are inextricably intertwined in his mind. For his memory of every life event, there’s a memory of what was happening with the team, whether it’s his marriage and divorce, his promotions at work or his friendships.

It’s a fascinating life story. Kevin is a kind of modern day Everyman whose life is shot through with humour and pathos, with joy and despair, with a determination to accept everything life throws at him, good and bad. His enthusiasm and openness makes him an engaging, even endearing character and Tom Kelly’s writing and direction ensure that the audience empathises every step of the way.

Paul Dunn truly embodies the character. He makes the emotional transitions, both personal and sporting, seamless and carries the audience along with him every step of the way. He is completely at home on the stage and we, the audience, do feel that we are in a one-to-one conversation with this engaging man.

I Left My Heart in Roker Park will return to the Customs House on 11th October but before then it visits the Gala in Durham on 23rd, 26th 27th and 28th September and Arts Centre Washington on Thursday September 25th.

British Theatre Guide


By Tom Kelly
Directed By Fiona Kelly

Staged in September 2013

LOVE KENT WALTON: a one-man play about love and the wonderful world of professional wrestling seen through the fighting times of South Shields ex-wrestler Gary Davison. The play is set on Tyneside today.

This new play was at the Customs House, South Shields

From Wednesday September 4th to Saturday September 7th @ 7.45
Matinee Thursday September 5th @ 2.30

Here is a link to more information on the play:


So this guy walks into the Customs House and asks to speak to the Director, Ray Spencer. He has, he tells him, a story to tell which he thinks would make a great play. He used to be a professional wrestler and he tells Spencer some tales of his career: a South Shields lad, he had his first fight in the town.

Spencer was fascinated so he brought Gary Davison (“The Hard Line Pro” as he was billed) together with playwright and poet Tom Kelly, many of whose plays have premiered at the Customs House, and so I Love Kent Walton was born.

It’s a one-man show which intertwines Davison’s personal life with his wrestling career. This peek behind the scenes of the grappling world, during which we see not only his career but meet almost mythical characters like Giant Haystacks, Big Daddy and Kendo Nagasaki, is fascinating in its own right, but what really holds the attention is Davison’s grappling with his own personal and familial demons and his essentially dysfunctional relationship with his first girlfriend Nicola, who has her own psychological problems which are made worse by her awareness of them.

Kelly’s writing segues smoothly and effectively between these themes, assisted by lighting changes and carefully chosen archive footage from the Saturday afternoon wrestling broadcasts, with commentary by Kent Walton, which finished in 1988, the year before Davison made his debut, and which had had a major impact on the young wrestler.

Actor Micky Cochrane plays Davison and captures the complexity of the character well, switching as smoothly as the writing between the child who feels himself abandoned, the anger-filled teenager, the bewildered lover and the man who has found himself in the wrestling game.

Fiona Kelly (Tom Kelly’s daughter), in her professional directorial debut, judges the pace nicely, especially in the second act where the tone turns decidedly darker.

The audience loved it, and herein lies the sadness for me. This is an excellent play, well written and well performed, but the audience was far smaller than it deserved. The Tyneside theatregoers who didn’t see it missed a real theatrical treat.

British Theatre Guide

The Gazette review
“I Love Kent Walton gripping drama.”

& The Chronicle—5848955

I read at Waddington Street Café , Durham
3rd September @ 7.30 pm

I KNOW THEIR FOOTSTEPS Tom Kelly’s seventh poetry collection launched at the wonderful Lit & Phil Library, Westgate Road, Newcastle on Monday 30th September @ 7.00

A couple of pints in ‘The Bridge’ after the reading was obligatory. Mine’s a pint of Deuchars.

The South Tyneside launch took place at South Shields Central Library on
Thursday October 3rd at 2.00 pm
Sunday 3rd December in the afternoon @ Newcastle’s Central Library as part of their Book on Tyne Festival.

Published by Red Squirrel Press

And here I am reading five poems from my seventh collection I KNOW THEIR FOOTSTEPS

Men of the Tyne October: The Tour

Stories & Songs about the Tyne
New Tyneside songs by Tom Kelly with music by Ian Ravenscroft with folk singer, Ted Cuskin, musicians Ian Ravenscroft & Ron Smith

Tuesday 15th October 8.00 @ Customs House at Daltons, The Community Room

‘Men of the Tyne’ are back in October at The Customs House, MEM & Morpeth

Friday October 18th Morpeth St George Church Hall, Morpeth

Saturday October 19th MEM Wallsend @ 7.30 pm

And here is a link to one of the songs from the MEN OF THE TYNE show, GHOSTS ON THE TYNE

And here is another song, ‘By the river with the bairns.’

Creative writing & Film
The project was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Here is THE WORKS IS CLOSING DOWN by Tom Kelly & Ian Ravenscroft
which features in the film MADE OF STEEL by Andrew Hagan.

Gazette Article 23.2.12 on the MADE OF STEEL project.

The MADE OF STEEL show (stories, songs & film) was staged at Consett Juniors School on Wednesday June 5th. 2013

Made of Steel audio & filmed interviews here

& on the blog

His next poetry collection I KNOW THEIR FOOTSTEPS will be launched @ the wonderful Lit & Phil, Westagate Road, Newcastle on Monday September 30th @ 7.00. Published by Red Squirrel Press.
Readings to promote the collection include the Waddington Street Cafe, Durham on Thursday September 3rd and the South Tyneside launch of the collection on National Poetry Day, Thursday October 3rd @ South Shields Central Library.

I LOVE KENT WALTON a new play by Tom will be produced by the Customs House South Shields and will open on Wednesday September 4th.
The play will be directed by Ray Spencer.

MEN OF THE TYNE: Songs, Stories & Film about the Tyne shipyards will have a short regional tour in October. Songs & Stories by Tom Kelly with music by Ian Ravenscroft.

Tom Kelly
Poet and playwright Tom Kelly was born in Jarrow and now lives further up the Tyne at Blaydon. He has had over a dozen plays and musicals staged at the Customs House, South Shields, a venue he regards as home.

For a breakdown of Tom’s plays and musicals have a look at the Doollee site:

Including the musical DAN DARE with music by John Miles and book & lyrics by Tom Kelly
Dan Dare
-The Best Musical North of Venus-


TOM & CATHERINE a musical based on the lives of Tom and Catherine Cookson
once again written with John Miles.

“Powerful tribute to Kate and Tom…It got a deserved standing ovation.”

In addition he wrote the musical THE MACHINE GUNNERS (with John Miles & Ken Reay)
The Machine Gunners returned to the Customs House which ran from Wednesday 3rd February to Saturday 13th February 2010

Review from Whatsonstage

UK Theatre Guide Review

The Public Review

One of his most recent projects is MEN OF THE TYNE, working with filmaker, Andrew Hagan

It was staged on Wednesday 12th October, Thursday October 13th and Friday October 14th 2011 @ 1.30 pm

And involved a boat trip on the Tyne, board at 1.00 and leave the Customs House at 1.30. The boat trip is the culmnation of the MEN OF THE TYNE PROJECT.

And it was back at the Customs House
on Friday August 17th. 2012


And the show had a short regional tour in 2013:

Arts Centre Washington
Thursday January 31st 7.30 pm
Tickets from 0191 219 3455

Phoenix Theatre Blyth Saturday Feb 1st

Gala Theatre, Durham on Sunday Feb 3rd

And on October 15th @ 8.00 2013 MEN OF THE TYNE returns to the Customs House
with other dates in the area including Morpeth & the MEM in Wallsend.

And here is one of the songs from the show, Ghosts on the Tyne.

An here is the finale of the MEN OF THE TYNE which was filmed at the Phoenix Blyth

Tom Kelly poetry collections:

Red Squirrel Press

Smokestack Books

His most recent collection is THE TIME OFFICE which is published by Red Squirrel and was launched at the wonderful Lit & Phill Newcastle in February.

Here are some photos from the PMT site.

His next collection I KNOW THEIR FOOTSTEPS will be launched (again) at the lovely Lit & Phil on Monday September 30th @ 7.00 with other readings in and around the area.
The collection will be published by the Red Squirrel Press.

Why not visit the Red Squirrel Site:

Here’s Tom reading some poems from THE TIME OFFICE

And here are some reviews of THE TIME OFFICE

The Time Office is a collection of new and selected poems by North East poet and dramatist, Tom Kelly. His poems are tied up with place and loss – visceral and immediate. He has a faultless ear for the nuances of his native Tyneside, picking out those small, details that make life here so unique.”

Newcastle Culture Magazine

“Having reviewed several of Tom Kelly’s collections in previous Bulletins, it is no surprise that this New and Selected Poems continues the themes of place, loss and longing. “Kelly’s work is rooted in his native north-east, especially Jarrow, where he was brought up. His short, spare pieces speak in a direct, unfussy voice and Kelly continues to excel when he is fusing emotion and location, a wonderful alchemy that touches on a range of experiences common to us all. Despite the huge feeling of disenfranchisement and loss which permeates these poems – ”Nowt’ stamped on foreheads / leaden hands and hearts’; Kelly resists the well-trodden political response of lesser poets which detracts from the tenderness present in these poems. From harrowing tales of PoW camps retold through a father’s letter to his children, to aphoristic pieces written in the broad Geordie dialect, Kelly is a versatile writer. Taken together, these poems are a raw, direct assault on the senses.”

Poetry Book Society Bulletin Spring 2012

Tom Kelly’s The Time Office (Red Squirrel Press) is a mixture of new poems and selections from his five previous collections. The North–East of England is brought sharply into focus in its rawness and its compassion and you had better not mistake that last word for patronising near-relation ‘Pity’: these poems present a world that is known from the inside and the poet’s accuracy of detail and concern prowl around the edge to prevent any easy attitudinising.

Ian Brinton
Tears in the Fence
Number 55 Summer 2012

The Time Office sees the Jarrow-born author continue the themes of place, loss and longing that have coloured his work of late, and which really come to life when read in the local dialect.
It’s powerful, moving and emotional stuff, with one poem, Geordie, reflecting on a changing region and the loss of our proud history of shipyards, steelworks and coal-mining and the community spirit that saw sons work with their fathers and everyone mix at the club.

Meanwhile, the poem of its title – The Time Office, 1965 – is about Kelly’s first job, when he was a 16-year-old working at Mercantile dry dock in Jarrow: an oily world of cigarette butts and cruel jokes, while Dreamers in a Cold Climate focuses on school and the quiet pupils at the other end of the spectrum from the “classroom terrorists”. Kelly, who lives in Blaydon, is a former drama teacher who turned to writing in his twenties.

Newcastle Journal

Tom’s collection HISTORY TALKS was launched at the wonderful Lit & Phil in Newcastle on February 17th and is already getting some really positive feedback:

Here’s Tom reading some poems from the collection

“It’s Kelly’s best book yet and that’s saying a lot.”

Andy Croft, Morning Star March 24

Violence, scumbags and Middle England

Wednesday 23 March 2011 by Andy Croft
Tom Kelly’s new collection History Talks (Red Squirrel Press, £6.99) is a book about violence.

At its heart are three violent deaths – the slow suicide of everyman figure ‘Geordie’, an ex-shipyard worker and alcoholic, the hanging of the Sunderland poisoner Mary Ann Cotton and the gibbeting of the Jarrow miner William Jobling: who is “Stuffed in a barrow,/hauled up the gibbet:/monument to authority… Union dead,/corpse lies/waiting spring/to rise.’

There is the casual violence of the unemployed kids down the shops, “comparing tattoos, kicking shop doorways,/waiting for night to make their history.” There are the bar-brawlers and the wife-beaters, north-east working-class lives where fists arrive “regular as debt.”

And behind all these stories lies generations of economic violence – “Hunga, hunga,/each bugger’s face/lined with want.”

It’s Kelly’s best book yet and that’s saying a lot.

“He writes about the North East past and present and there is an impressive sense of place…in Tom’s visceral, immediate poetry….”

Poetry Book Society Bulletin, Spring 2011

“How good it is to read poems about something real and which are written so directly and with rhythms that make them roll along. There’s a lot of truth there and a lot of love. No Laughing Matter is a real gem.”
Jim Burns

“There is no wastage, no superfluous decoration, even the longer narrative poems like Geordie and Jobling are wrought in simple, straight forward vocabulary and tightly honed images.
I consider this collection vital work with something to say…”
Bob Beagrie

Short, sharp recollections of the north-east. Great lines, “when the wind was whoring against our house/I think of you….dying in washed-out pyjamas amongst strangers.”

This is a book for Geordies and strangers alike.
Geoff Stevens, Purple Patch

With his fifth collection, History Talks, Tom Kelly says, “My poetry is very much about the North East. I try and give a voice to those lost by the changes we have witnessed: the move from heavy to light industry and the impact on people and their communities.”
The result is quietly profound – often depicting everyday scenes in understated language, which drills down straight to the heart. “Tell me can poetry re-make the past?” he asks in The Invisible Ticking of Remorse. Perhaps not, but re-imagining the past with compassion and care is nonetheless a powerful trick.

Laura Fraine
New Writing North

For more info or to buy HISTORY TALKS
Red Squirrel Site

Here is is some info/reviews on previous collections:
The Wrong Jarrow (2007)
Smokestack Books

The Recusant Review of The Wrong Jarrow

The Wrong Jarrow (Purple Patch Individual Collection of the Year)

Dreamers in a Cold Climate (2008)
Red Squirrel Press

See the Red Squirrel site for reviews and more information on all three collections

Love-Lines (2009)
Red Squirrel Press

Somewhere in Heaven (2010)
Red Squirrel Press

Here’s Alan Dent’s review of the three Red Squirrel collections in Penniless Press, December 2010:

SOMEWHERE IN HEAVEN by Tom Kelly ISBN 978 1 906700 17 1 £6.99

LOVE-LINES by Tom Kelly ISBN 978 1 906700 04 1 £6.99

DREAMERS IN A COLD CLIMATE by Tom Kelly ISBN 978 0 9554027 4 6 £6.99 Red Squirrel Press

Tom Kelly’s work is rooted in his native north-east, especially Jarrow. He writes mainly short, spare pieces. His style is direct and unadorned. He is very good at evoking the emotions which belong to particular moments, and in Love-Lines especially, touches on a range of experiences common to us all in our families. His work gets very interesting where it arrives at the seam between our public and private selves. He writes of his working-class upbringing and some of his poems are located in the economic and social reality of the north-east. Yet he is never far away from the personal; there is always some echo in his work which reminds you that our economic and social activity exists so that we can do what really matters: build those loving relationships which touch what the cold world of money, production and efficiency leave aside. This is not to suggest he dismisses the public world as futile; on the contrary, but through his work there runs a strain of dismay at how we have allowed dehumanizing forces to invade and occupy. He is acutely aware of how this has been negative for his class. What is heartening about these books is that they resist a lurch into a political response which wrenches away from the tenderness and connection which he knows is essential to our well-being. Taken together, these three collections provide a clear view of Kelly’s preoccupations and style. They are the work of a secure talent a keen conscience and a good heart.

History Talks(2011)

Red Squirrel Press

Launched Thursday February 17th 2011 Lit & Phil, Newcastle
Order from Red Squirrel

Here is Tom reading a few poems from the collection on You Tube

Here’s the first review of the collection from the Poetry Book Society Bulletion, Spring 2011

History Talks
Published by
Red Squirrel Press

“Tom Kelly is a prolific writer. In addition to his collections of poetry (of which this is the fifth), he has also penned numerous plays and this contributes to the real sense of drama that fills his poems. He writes about the North East past and present, and there is an impressive sense of place in all these poems. From ‘Flash Gordon’ who “shopping in Asda…keeps an eye on the check-out,” to “My father’s brother. Unmarried…He’d drink at dinnertime and worked nights in the Steel Works.” Perhaps it is in the final stanza of ‘Cold Morning’ that best sums up this collection and Tom’s visceral, immediate poetry. “I can’t see the future/imagine anything/apart from this.” History Talks.”

Red Squirrel Press

Prior to his collections he has had several pamphlets published including two from the Sand Press and Tears in the Fence.

Currently he is working on a new poetry collection provisonally entitled The Time Office .

His most recent play HUNGRY HEARTS AND HEADS was produced by the Workers’ Educational Association and toured the north-east during October 2010.

See Gazette and Northern Echo articles on the play

He worked as a drama lecturer at South Tyneside College for twenty five years, and now writes, runs creative writing and drama workshops.
Recently he been working on a number of creative writing fronts including a SteamPunk project:

Plus a creative writing project which was tied-in with the SWANS OF THE TYNE exhibition at the Discovery Museum, Newcastle.
The exhibition opened December 15th and ran until May 30th 2010.

Recently he has worked with filmaker Andrew Hagan, on a documentary film, with and for young homeless people on South Tyneside.

And here are some of his recent stage productions:
From May 11th to 15th the choral group ENCORE performed concert versions of Tom & Catherine and Dan Dare at the Customs House.

Encore Review

Tom & Catherine The Musical on Wikipedia


In addition he wrote the musical THE MACHINE GUNNERS (with John Miles & Ken Reay)
The Machine Gunners returned to the Customs House and ran from Wednesday 3rd February to Saturday 13th February.

Review from Whatsonstage

UK Theatre Guide Review

The Public Review


And in March 2010….

Talking Tom was at the Customs House followed by a short tour:
The Customs House Presents:
Talking Tom
By Tom Kelly

Date: 17 Mar 2010 Time: 7.30pm & 2.30pm (Wednesday and Saturday only)

Directed By Jackie Fielding
Starring Donald McBride & Pat Dunn

The Customs House programme Information:
The Customs House is delighted to host the return of Jarrow born playwright Tom Kelly’s hilarious monologues.
Elsie & Elsie Rides Again look at a seemingly sweet 77 year old spinster Elsie, a lovely granny figure on the outside but what about inside? Is she as sweet as she seems?

Neighbourhood Watch is the ultimate Neighbourhood Watcher; he is on duty twenty four hours a day…watching you.
The Club Doorman, keeps the door at a CIU-affiliated working men’s club. He knows everyone’s business from the committee, club organist to club members but does he know what he is doing to his family?

The show also included readings of some of Tom Kelly’s critically acclaimed poetry.

“These monologues are beautifully crafted little gems.” – British Theatre Guide

“Elsie should have a TV sitcom of her own.” – Shields Gazette

“‘Neighbourhood Watch’ …is hilariously funny …to live next door to him must be hell on earth….exactly the right piece to take us into the interval – the bar was buzzing!” –
British Theatre Guide

“The dialogue sparkles. It’s in the style of Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads, and the master couldn’t have done any better”.
– Shields Gazette

“Tom is a writer with a gift for dialogue, one of the reasons his short plays works so well…his characters are utterly convincing ….”
– Sunderland Echo


Customs House, Mill Dam, South Shields. NE33 1ES

‘Talking Tom’ had a short regional tour after the run at the Customs House:
Monday 22nd
Talking Tom Cruise Tyne Cruise
From Newcastle Quayside to the Customs House & back!
Bookings 0191-4541234
Photos of the boat on the Tyne

Tuesday March 23rd The Crypt Middlesbrough Town Hall

Wednesday March 24th Hexham Queen’s Hall Theatre

Thursday March 25th Lamplight Theatre, Stanley

Friday March 26th Arts Centre Washington

Saturday March 27th Berwick Maltings Studio
Talking Tom Review
Darlington & Stockton Times

For a breakdown of Tom’s plays have a look at the Doollee site:

SOMEWHERE IN HEAVEN his third poetry collection from Red Squirrel was launched on Wednesday February 17th 2010 at 6.00 pm Gallery North, Northumbria University.
He had a launch at the Black Bull, Blaydon on Tuesday June 8th @ 7.30

Here is a review of one of his most recent poetry collection LOVE-LINES from Red Squirrel:

“Kelly’s third collection, and his second to be published by the Red Squirrel Press, builds brilliantly upon the themes of his earlier work and resounds with a rawness, pathos and humour that leaps from the page and seems to whisper charmingly in your ear like an old friend. A proud son of the North East, his poetry is preoccupied with place and loss, with a faultless ear for the nuances of his native Tyneside, picking out the small details of everyday life and making them sing, from memories of awkwardly sharing a urinal with his father to nights spent wistfully looking through photograph albums, gazing at pictures that ‘umbrella the light but stop a long way short of living’. These are vivid, compelling and often beautiful poems, by turns sad and uplifting, that certainly deserve a wide readership.”

The Poetry Book Society Bulletin Spring, 2009

And here’s a link to reviews on the collection The Wrong Jarrow:

A recent play staged at the Customs House, NOTHING LIKE THE WOODEN HORSE received terrific reviews:

“There are those occasions, albeit they are sometimes few and far between, when a theatre critic is given the opportunity to review a play that is utterly compelling, deeply affecting and hugely entertaining. Last night was one of those blessed occasions.”

UK Theatre Network

“Inspired by his own father’s experiences, Tom Kelly’s insightful and poignant look at war through the eyes of two generations is a stark reminder that there are bigger issues out there today.”

Newcastle Journal

Links to reviews of the play NOTHING LIKE THE WOODEN HORSE
produced by the Customs House, South Shields, March 2009.

British Theatre Guide Review

Newcastle Journal Preview: David Whetstone

Newcastle Journal Review

UK Theatre Network

The Public Review

Evening Chronicle

Recently he has worked on LITTLE IRELAND, a film he co-directed with Gary Wilkinson, which was featured in this years’ Tyneside Irish Festival. The film looks at the influx of the Irish into Jarrow (including Kelly’s decedents) from the middle of the nineteenth century, giving the town its name, ‘Little Ireland’. The film was screened and sold out at the Customs House on October 23, 2009.

See GAZETTE ARTICLE and video link:

He has just completed working on a new short documentary film, JARROW VOICES (with Gary Wilkinson) which examines the impact of the Jarrow Crusade and the gibbeting of Jarrow pitman William Jobling in 1832; see article and video in GAZETTE on the project.

The film was launched on Saturday December 12th 2009 at Newcastle Central Library as part of Human Rights Day events organised by Newcastle City Council. A Matt Perrry lecture was followed by a brief introduction to JARROW VOICES by Tom Kelly.

It was then launched on South Tyneside at Soutth Shields Central Library and Jarrow Library

The new play for the Workers’ Educational Association, to celebrate their centenary, will tour in October 2010, follows on from a play he wrote for them in 2006 the BLAYDON BRICKLAYER on the life and times of Joseph Cowen.

Here is some information on Joesph Cowen:

His poetry and prose has been published recently by and is forthcoming from a number of magazines, including Dream Catcher, Penniless Press, and Purple Patch and in the anthologies Night Shift from Five Leaves Press, published March 2010

He has three poems in The Book of Ten, Zebra Press.

You can buy…

Nothing Like The Wooden Horse
from Red Squirrel

Love-Lines from Red Squirrel

Dreamers in a Cold Climate from Red Squirrel

Article on the collection from the Shields Gazette

Love-Lines Review in the Morning Star

The Wrong Jarrow from Smokestack Book

‘Seventy years ago, Ellen Wilkinson called Jarrow “the town that was murdered.”

It is still a painful site of popular memory, made famous by grainy newsreels and Bill Brandt’s photographs. Tom Kelly has lived in Jarrow for most of his life. His new collection, The Wrong Jarrow (Smokestack Books, £7.95) takes a hard look at a part of north-east England that is still a shameful emblem of industrial decay and deprivation.

The writing is blunt, cold and spare, but raging and prophetic too. “This is the wrong Jarrow /there’s unemployment and deprivation/and no steel works and shipyard and the clubs are dead /and there’s problem estates and no go areas/and drugs on tap/But it’s the wrong Jarrow/It’s not what I want/not what I want at all/I’ll come back when it’s burning.”

Andy Croft in The Morning Star

The Wrong Jarrow was Purple Patch magazine Individual collection of the year 2009.
The Wrong Jarrow article

Some reviews of THE WRONG JARROW

“there’s heartache and pain within these short, plainly-written poems”

Jim Burns Ambit

“Kelly writes with an uncomfortable rawness and directness. Not to do so would also be a betrayal… The cumulative effect of reading this book is to be exposed to an honesty we are in much need of.”

Matt Simpson, Critical Survey

“Tom Kelly’s gaze is compassionate, steady and unflinching, his tone direct and unsparing, his integrity resonant throughout these poems.”

The Journal

“a forceful little collection, unremitting yet not without a background compassion.”

Other Poetry

“put down with a spareness it is difficult to find these days.”

Barry MacSweeney

“specialises in suburban epiphanies, the lines lying flat, full of grudging northerness.”


The Northern Echo
“an elegy for the ‘old’ north-east….’

Here’s a selection of his work wriitten with songwriter/ musician/producer Steve Thompson

Songs of Love, Work and War
Live cast recording

Steel Town Musical

Looking at the closure of Consett’s Steel Works in 1980.

Staged at the Customs House and the Empire Theatre, Consett


Steve Thompson and Kelly are at present working on DOWN TO THE RIVER music and poetry inspired by GEORDIE a long poem taken from Kelly’s collection DREAMER’S IN A COLD CLIMATE,Red Squirrel Press
Here’s a link to the work in progress:

Peace on Earth By Tom Kelly & Ron Smith from the RAGNAROK MUSICAL
Performed by ELLE

Tom’s work, produced by the Customs House, includes the plays, Nothing like the Wooden Horse; Baby Love; Family Ties; Five By One; I Left My Heart In Roker Park (staged three times); Secrets; Love in NE32; Ride A White Swan (staged twice); Behind the Wall; Autumn Days (staged twice). The musicals Dan Dare with music by John Miles; Tom & Catherine (with Ray Spencer) music once again by John Miles, which was staged twice and sold-out on both occasions. He has written two community plays, including Tyne Songs (with Carol Cooke) for South Tyneside MBC and The Black Hill for Blaydon Festival.

And here are a selection of reviews and articles of work staged at the Customs House:

Baby Love

David Whetsone in the Newcastle Journal on Baby Love

Sunday Sun Review

Five By One×1-rev.htm

Newcastle Journal Review;col1


Dan Dare Musical

I LEFT MY HEART IN ROKER PARK (Extra Time at the Stadium of Light)

Review from Evening Chronicle of Family Ties;col1

And some less recent projects:

Alan Price and Tom Kelly

A “People’s TV documentary opera” directed by Peter West.
Produced by Arena in BBC1 & 2 in 1977 and 78.

Directed by Peter West

A song recorded by Marianne Faithfull (David Price/Tom Kelly)
Dreamin’ my Dreams (NEMS)

And you can buy….

Tom & Catherine
Music John Miles
Book & Lyrics: Tom Kelly
Music from the show produced & performed by John Miles

Available from Orange Music

More info on the album

Contact:  Tom Kelly

Poetry Collections: some reviews

Tom Kelly
Red Squirrel Press

Tom Kelly’s Dreamers in a Cold Climate is deeply rooted in the past and present of Tyneside. The autobiographical trajectory of the first part gives continuity to its multi-faceted treatments of self and place. ‘Geordie’ follows, a long dramatic monologue, heavily salted with Tyneside dialect. It traces the purposeless, pub-centred drifting of a life formerly given structure and meaning by decades of work in the now-defunct shipyards. The passing of heavy industry and the local identity it shaped are inextricably linked to the social, cultural, and psychological dereliction embodied in Geordie himself. His dispossession assumes universality in an age when globalisation‘s first casualties are localised traditional industries: “Now? What wi got? / Bloody bingo and karaoke./The Japanese took wa ships./Giv’ us bloody karaoke./ Not much of aa swap…”
While the past is looked back to for vanished cultural cohesion, the poems drawing on personal experience also evoke a childhood sense of the constraints of an industrial status quo that imposed narrow limits on imagination and opportunity: “His wants are clagged/in his mouth/clapped shut with ignorance, /a dry fish trapped in concrete”.
Kelly’s entry into the working life Tyneside has ordained for him is noted in ‘1964: the Time Office, Mercantile Dry Dock, Jarrow,’ firmly sealing his connection with Geordie’s lost shipbuilding past. “Now go to the site:/shipyard, dock gone…//take this image:/ship and me mauling the dock, /me praying over a ledger”.
Subsequent poems follow his life far beyond that point, through the deaths of parents and birth of a daughter to a plateau of cautious lyricism where memory and the present interpenetrate: “wait/and/then recall/the memory/that flutters/like a bird/in your cupped hands/flying unsteadily, /
Painfully away”. The thematic and local integration of Dreamers in a Cold Climate gives the collection something of the unity of a single long poem. Read as such, its impact is impressive.


“Title poem deals with kids who speak when they are spoken to, but don’t put themselves forward in class. ‘Snow was heavy/ falling on all their hopes’ when the husband returned from war to be greeted by the harsh winter of 1947. This is a book of a life, words cut to the quick and the words are transferred to you, the reader. There is an eleven-year-old who hates his Dad, and the gang member who is bullied, his sweets taken, his balls numbed. To tell you more would deprive you of an experience. Get it before it’s gone.”

Geoff Stevens, Purple Patch, No. 122, March 2009

“As a fellow-Tynesider, I was pleased to read this in my ‘native’ idiom. Tom brings it off very well, and I congratulate him on a truly poetic dialect
voice perfectly expressed in print. Through his command of the idiom I have loved since childhood, I have been swept back in memory to the atmosphere of all my working-class childhood and youth. The voice is absolutely convincing, and very appealingly managed in print – something very difficult to do with our gruff yet musical gift of self-expression – half proud, half uneasy about the effect it can make – often astonishingly memorable, as for example The Boot and its rough-tongued companion Unmarked. I can smell the coal dust and the drying fishing nets on the Tyne and in all its sloping riverbank roofs. Another poem (among many) I found really memorable is The Business and the translation (not too much ‘after’ T’Ao Ch’ien) whose poems I translated long ago.
“And I was absolutely swept away by the long sequence, Geordie in which both character and dialect are really compellingly evoked. It held me right to the end. I felt that it deserves to be illustrated by some sympathetic cartoonist who really knows and loves the Tyne and its working men – now so often unemployed or grown too old in the shipyards and engineering works that were once the glory of the Tyne. I think Tom Kelly is a unique poet – who ought to write a novel or short stories…”

James Kirkup

“The first half of Tom Kelly’s Dreamers in a Cold Climate is a series of bleak, tender monochrome portraits of growing up in Jarrow in the 1960s. Speak when spoken to / worry when teachers shout. You joined the gang or ran every play time away from fists and kicks.
“The second half of the book is a long sequence about a Geordie everyman, a skilled worker and grafter who is bewildered by ‘life after work’. Th’ Japanese took wa ships / giv’ us bloody karaoke / Not much of a swap. It is a beautiful elegy to work and to the industrial working class, Thatcher was shameless / Greed: mak’ th’ rich richor ‘Where’d that leave us?’ / Ask every miner / steel workers at Consett / shipyards: aal gone / Black days and neets.”

Andy Croft, 21st Century Verse, Morning Star (21/05/2008)
Red Squirrel Press

Love Lines

“Kelly’s third collection, and his second from the Red Squirrel Press, builds brilliantly upon the themes of his earlier work and resounds with a rawness, pathos, and humour that leaps from the page and seems to whisper charmingly in your ear like an old friend. A proud son of the North East, his poetry is preoccupied with place and loss, with a faultless ear for the nuances of his native Tyneside, picking out the small details of everyday life and making them sing, from memories of awkwardly sharing a urinal with his father to nights spent wistfully looking through photograph albums, gazing at pictures of that ‘umbrella the light but stop a long way short of the living’. These are vivid, compelling, and often beautiful poems, by turns sad and uplifting, that certainly deserve a wider readership.”
Bulletin, Poetry Book Society magazine, Issue 220, Spring 2009
Somewhere in Heaven
Red Squirrel Press

“Hard luck collides with Kelly’s worn down but never quite depressing witness to life on t he south bank of the Tyne, but so does poetry.”

Other Poetry, Summer 2010

“The first sequence of poems gave me that claustrophobic, breathless feeling of being trapped in church during procedures. Believers would I think be at one with them, they do evoke the atmosphere. I like it when the outreach collection box of the Kelly’s is returned with a button in it!
“Great snapshots of wonderful but poor past lives in the north-east, lost except for memories. Shipyards closed, the Fever Hospital, the night shift…

Geoff Stevens, Purple Patch 126, June 2010

“Kelly’s fourth collection continues the theme of his last collection, Love-Lines – the acute sense of loss in his north-east England. He walks along the Tyne lamenting the loss of heavy industry and its impact on the community. The poem ‘Sunday in Winter’ perhaps sums up Kelly’s concern – a man, searching for his past life, now lost, wonders whether it was a dream: ‘some stranger’s life rifled / allowed a dream to sneak in, / filch its corrupt way into this unbearable aching’. In this wonderfully observed collection, Kelly captures a world we need to hear and see.”

The Poetry Book Society Bulletin, Spring 2010

The Wrong Jarrow
Smokestack Books

The Wrong Jarrow is a tribute in many ways to the fading industrial culture of the North – those old Labour heartlands – and it is last generation of colliers, limping on almost like emasculated museum pieces. Above all, it is a collection of highly memorable, grittily pictorial monodies, which could well go on to inspire its own responses in painting, vividly drawn as the poems are. The cover, ‘Two Men at a Bar with a Dog’, being a couple of burley labourers leant shoulder to shoulder at a bar, their bulging frames almost loaf-like in shape, their cloth capped heads tucked away from view, pints and fags in hands, as what looks like a Whippet stands between their ragged-trousered legs, is a superb image in chalks and charcoals by Norman Cornish, that evokes so sinuously the hands-on labouring life of the old North – and is more than matched by the tough-loving lyricism of Tom Kelly in this brilliant slice of colloquial working-class poetry. Recommended for especially the metropolitan elites.
Alan Morrison
The Recusant on-line magazine

“There’s heartache and pain within these short, plainly-written poems”
“Kelly writes with an uncomfortable rawness and directness. Not to do so would also be a betrayal… The cumulative effect of reading this book is to be exposed to an honesty we are in much need of.”
Matt Simpson, Critical Survey
“Tom Kelly’s gaze is compassionate, steady and unflinching, his tone direct and unsparing, his integrity resonant throughout these poems.”
The Journal
“a forceful little collection, unremitting yet not without a background compassion.”
Other Poetry
“put down with a spareness it is difficult to find these days.”
Barry MacSweeney
“specialises in suburban epiphanies, the lines lying flat, full of grudging northerness.”