Hello! Let me begin by wishing you all a Happy New Year. I trust you all had a splendid time or at least made the best of it.

January has been a mixed bag of emotions for me it has to be said. Two of my favourite front people passed away - Dolores O'Riordan and then Mark E Smith, both of whom I had the great pleasure of meeting and I remain a huge fan of them and their music.

This issue is packed with all the news from a thriving local arts scene around the three shires. With exhibitions and events not just in arts centres, galleries, museums & libraries but in ‘pubs’, bringing art to the masses. Our front cover image by textile artist Tamara Jelaca whose exhibition ‘Faceless’ is sure to draw one or two ‘new faces’ to Pershore Number 8. (Egg cooking is one of my specialist subjects although perhaps not whilst half naked!) We bring updated news on the Canal & River Trust Arts Waterways project - The Ring, also funded by Arts Council England, with the announcement of international artist Lucy Mclauchlan joining the program. Exciting times ahead...

The increasing popularity of poetry and spoken word do not get ignored either in this issue. We feature former Birmingham poet laureate Spoz and his book with accompanying CD. We also report on the new Worcestershire Young Poet Laureate as well as our regular Suz Winspear column. Again pubs are playing their part in this vibrant local scene and long may it continue.

We also bring you plenty of music reviews from local acts and their ‘new releases’ so please follow their links and check them out. We are all used to buying online or streaming music these days, which means it isn’t always easy for local artists to get noticed. It’s going to be harder still, in Worcester at least, due to the sad closure of Rise Records which kept an independent section for local artists. It seems very sad to me that a City the size of Worcester no longer has an independent record shop.


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