Ten Writer Highlights – from the last twelve months

1 My New Book !
I think my number one highlight is a bit obvious – in June 2022, after over two years of work and great support from Les Robinson at tall-lighthouse press, Rescue Contraptions was published into the world. It’s received very strong feedback – great reviews and testimonies, and more importantly, it has landed well with the readers. I’ve captured some of the feedback and reviews here. & info on how to buy here.

2. Hitting the Dancefloor !
My new collaboration with Jonny MacAllistair and the DJ Collective “Warriors of the Dystoteque” bore it’s first fruit. “Barred” was featured their album Anthropause and got airplay on BBC Radio Ulster & a shout-out in Hot Press Magazine – the bible of my youth !

3 Launching Rescue Contraptions !
The book launched to a packed house in Crystal Palace. Loved performing a longer set of about 45 minutes to a very warm audience. Great buzz. Also big shout out to my two favourite bookshops that have been great supporters : Bookseller Crow in Crystal Palace, and Little Acorns Bookstore in Derry City.

4 Bingo and Downhill
More attention for the Woodleigh Research Facility tracks with Andrew Weatherall and Nina Walsh. I have learnt to appreciate Andrew’s legacy more and more as time goes on – and realise how lucky I was to collaborate with a genuine musical legend, who also happened to be a lovely, unassuming bloke. “Downhill” and “Play Bingo With Me” continue to gain airplay and inclusion in playlists across the country and the globe – popping up on track listings from Beats In Space in New York to Matt Walsh in Margate.

5 The Derry London Bridge
Visiting County Down and Derry over the summer, as well as catching up with friends and family, allowed the opportunity for a great 20 minute interview about “Rescue Contraptions” on BBC Radio Foyle, a great write-up in Derry News – and to get the buzz of seeing my book in the window of Little Acorn Bookstore.

6 Lifting The Lid
For several years, due to my own personal sequence of losses, and the natural tie-in with the book content, I have found myself supporting people who want to write about death. This has included workshops in the hospice movement and “the Loss Project”. In September 2022 it was a great honour to deliver a workshop at the international online festival “Lifting The Lid” – where I got a chance to perform and discuss some of material about loss to a crowd from Anchorage, Alaska to Anerley, South London. Very moving and interesting event as part of a great festival. Catch it on replay here

7. Due to Popular Demand
Due to popular demand (and a very quickly sold out first event) we had a second Crystal Palace Launch for Rescue Contraptions – and we sold-out again in Antenna Studios. This time I was supported by great sets from tall-lighthouse stable-mate Christopher Horton and brand new voice Majella Brady, and MC’d once again by Mr tall lighthouse, Les Robinson. The autobiographical and chronology of the book does lend itself well to a “show” and has definitely whetted my appetite for developing a longer performance.

8. Bubblin’ Under
Very early days but I’m working on a draft of a new poetry publication that’s going to be completely different from anything I’ve ever done so far. Watch this space – I’m very excited about it, and will have more to share later in the year.

9 New Gigs in 2023
Looking forward to some new readings and performances in England and Ireland – watch this space!
Kicked off with a lovely support slot for Johanna Warren in Feb. Check out my youtube playlist for some great footage from the night. Fancy booking me for a slot or show ? Give me a shout via contact page.

10. There’s A Party in 47 Fitzroy
Can’t believe how well this has turned out. A spoken word piece from me over a thumping acid house chug from Jonny MacAllistair and the Warriors of the Dystoteque. And if that wasn’t good enough, it’s been released on Leeds label Paisley Dark with no less than 7 remixes from an incredible array of DJ producers. Now with a fantastic video put together by Daz & Ray Megaghy, with support from Plan B, 5th Element and Skank fm. Available to pre-order here before it’s launch on St Paddy’s Day.

Here’s to the next 12 months !

Section of the crowd from the first sold-out launch of Rescue Contraptions, Crystal Palace, June 2022. Thanks as always to John Barrett for both launch pics.

Derry News : ‘Rescue Contraptions’ – the latest publication from Joe Duggan

Review by Eamonn Baker
First published in print 15th August 2022
Derry News

The blue ribbon on honorary Derry man, Joe Duggan’s second book of poetry “Rescue Contraptions” was well and truly cut in front of a crowded house in London’s Crystal Palace, just over a month ago. Covid got in the road of my being there. From all accounts the launch was a fantastic success, a night of true celebration.

Joe is a highly respected community, arts and environmental activist in the Crystal Palace area of South London and his many friends and fans rocked up in support. Joe’s first book of poems, “Fizzbombs” also published by Tall Lighthouse was likewise launched in London a few years after Joe had headed across there from Derry to complete a teacher training PGCE.

Joe was signposted to Derry in the mid -nineties by that great friend of this city, Damian Gorman, currently commissioned by the Playhouse to develop “Beyond Belief” the John Hume “ play with music” scheduled for performance next April to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.

Joe grew up not far from Damian in the county Down seaside town of Newcastle. For most of his time in Derry, Joe lived on Marlborough Road. He was a founding member of the agent provocateur poetry group: “A Bunch of Chancers” often to be heard performing around Sandinos and the Playhouse. Joe was also involved in delivering creative writing aspects of an accredited Community Arts course at the Playhouse as well as delivering creative writing workshops around the city often in partnership with Maureen Hetherington, then Derry City Community Relations Officer and with Yes! Publications who brought us Fingerpost Community Magazine.

While Joe has been living in London nearly twenty years now, he has maintained strong connections with people in Derry and there has been a genuinely warm reaction here to the launch of “Rescue Contraptions” . Says Joe: “It’s a huge delight and honour for me to know that Jenni Doherty of Little Acorns Bookshop on Foyle Street has got signed copies of my new book on her shelves.”

Joe, that erstwhile “Chancer” , continues to write in a very accessible plain speaking way, a hallmark of the “Chancer school of poetry”!

Don’t be Vague

Don’t be vague, ask for Haig”

-Whiskey Advert

One time he was on the sick

and was called up to The Board.

He didn’t want to get taken off

because there was no work.

They sent him into a cubicle to undress.

On the inside door someone had scrawled


Put my blood pressure through the roof.

I had thon boyos to thank

For another six weeks sick pay.

These are the jokes of my childhood,

The little gifts my da used to survive,

And to feed us.

This Troubles poem is all the stronger for particular focus on the working class experience of tough times, of desperation inflamed by our deadly sectarianism. Talking with Joe he generously acknowledges that the sectarianism dramatised in this poem cuts both ways.

During the past few years, Joe’s two younger brothers -Michael and Francy -have died.. Francy who also lived in Derry for a while collapsed walking across Botanic Avenue in South Belfast. Michael succumbed to throat cancer in San Francisco where he was a much loved member of the Irish ex-pat community there. Joe’s moving love poems honouring Francy and Michael simultaneously stir and soothe. He manages to balances sadness with a steady sense of humour:

I have been back and forth

across the Bay Bridge to

Oaklands Health Center

in thirty different pick up trucks

driven by pink-skinned

men and women from

nearly every county in Ireland.

And if they could have,

they would have

built him a rescue contraption,

like MacGyver or the A-team,

with welding torches and lathes

and paint-tins and concrete and planks.

from Notes from Oakland

Central to this collection is the bi-lingual poem “Irish for beginners” originally commissioned by the SOAS Endangered Language Documentation Programme . In a dozen interrelated sometimes quickfire meditations Joe Duggan- Seosamh O Dubhagain- himself the grandson of Michael Mullin 1886-1978, the Bard of Foremass (County Tyrone), wrestles with his experience of the Irish language :
whether in secondary school, at Croke Park, on a Gaelic football pitch, in church as an altar boy, in County Down during the Troubles, at Queens University, in a chip shop in Derry, in Gortahork, on Tory Island, in Brian Merriman’s poetry, in Bardic poetry, in John Montague’s “ A Grafted Tongue.”

The twelfth segment concludes poignantly:

Ta an teanga seo i mo chorp

ach chan a thuilleadh ar mo theanga.

My tongue is in my body

but no longer on my tongue.

Joe Duggan’s “Rescue Contraptions” is available from Little Acorns Bookshop, Derry and can also be purchased from Tall Lighthouse Publications.

To paraphrase the final words of Joe’s 2 40 am poem:

Give it a go. You will be glad you did.

Related article :
Musical Tribute To “Downhill Derry” And It’s Famous Pubs

Rescue Contraption : Crystal Palace launch in Pictures

All Pics Courtesy of John Barrett
Buy and find out more here : Rescue Contraptions

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Rescue Contraptions : Crystal Palace Launch

Ok – very proud to announce this. Rescue Contraptions, my new collection from tall-lighthouse will be launched in Antenna Studios, Crystal Palace on Wed 29th June.

Recommend getting in early to book a place below, seats booking up extremely quickly – and you’ll be hearing a lot more about this !

Booking Link Here

Early responses to Rescue Contraptions :

” For someone who makes such a virtue out of plain-speaking honesty, there’s also a discreet flamboyance at play in Joe Duggan’s work. … giving each word its exact weight and importance and something beyond that. … he can find himself ‘time-jumping ceasefires’ in different countries, imagine a fresh Oscar Wilde bon-mot or keep Youssop Matada suspended and on repeat, high in our minds over East Sheen in a feat of heart-stopping reportage. Yes, honest and real, but superbly and artfully executed, too. Take a long drink.”

Matthew Caley

“Whether talking about family, country, teaching, or mortality, Joe shares with us the weight of his experiences. His nimble lyricism and style allow us to pick up and hold these moments so that we may appreciate the world’s gravity, rather than be subdued by it.”

 Joseph Johnston

“A big gut punch… moving and engaging and funny and brilliant. I don’t read much poetry but then I read some, like yours, which is so powerful and effecting and I wonder why I don’t read more. It’s like you’ve ripped your heart into bits and stapled it all over the page.”

Jane Mackelworth

“Simply stunning. It took me there, and it got me right there, in the gut and in the heart.”

-Gill Wing

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Advance Notice …..

Very excited to say that Rescue Contraptions, my second collection from Tall Lighthouse, will be published this Spring.
Watch this space for more announcements !

The Open Mic is Open For Business

I didn’t think I’d get back into running an Open Mic again, and I hadn’t planned it, but here it is and I’m really enjoying it. We’ve now had our second night at the Paxton Centre and both nights have been very memorable !


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The thing is – the combination is right. The timing feels right for Crystal Palace to have a night that is all about the performers – where they can perform away from a noisy pub environment and be truly listened to.

The venue feels right. The Paxton Centre has developed into a real hub where local people can come and be creative.  I feel connected to it through the many community connections with Crystal Palace Transition Town, Crystal Palace Freelancers and more. And in terms of the art, one-woman-dynamo Beth Mander runs it like an Open Mic. Local artists are given slots on the wall and the art changes every month. Plus there’s a varied range of one-off and regular workshops, gigs and socials every month.

The audience feels right. Musicians, poets, and people who want to come along and enjoy a selection of new and established voices. My intention is to cultivate a space where the singers, poets, comedians and everyone else get a fair space to be heard. Nervous newbies feel able to have a go, and experienced performers can try out new material or just enjoy being listened to.

But most importantly of all – the mix of performers is more than right ! So far it has been brilliant ! I wonder can we keep this up ?  On the first night we had everything from RnB from Taylor, rip-roaring soulful balladry from Longy, slightly close to the knuckle comedy from Adam and a really exciting and eclectic mix of writing and spoken word.

Second time round the singer-songwriters were out in force, plus rap from Kai,  a great mix of spoken word and a great duet from Tomek and Simone a.k.a “m” to finish the night. It re-enforces my idea that there is a helluva lot of talent in Crystal Palace and in South London in general.

Fancy booking a slot ? Drop me a line for more info: joeduggan215@hotmail.com

And hope to see you on the next one on Friday 16th March: Facebook event here and book in advance to secure admission here. We tend to get quite full.

Broken Biscuits No.6.

Was a great night at the last Broken Biscuits… Here’s Idle Eye’s Doug Thorp with some kind words, read on for more including a great 4 minute clip from my performance on the night:

“Joe Duggan kicked off the evening leaving no stone unturned. I’ve tried to give a flavour of just how varied and powerful his work can be in the below edit, but to get the full hit you really need to be there in the flesh. He is blessed with not only the words, but also a voice that soothes on the one hand and kicks off with the other. An extraordinary talent.”

Idle Eye


And they just get better and better. Always lovely to do a gig in the manor but oh, Crystal Palace, you surpassed yourselves! Have a biscuit. Let’s break it down, because that’s what you know and love:

Sadly, Michael Legge couldn’t be with us for this one, but the unstoppable Jenny Vegas kindly agreed to take another day off her Bernard Matthews tour of Norfolk to join us once again. And this time, we got the full Manky Shanka, yes we did! God only knows how she manages to walk to Jobcentre Plus every morning.

Jenny Lockyer‘s hilarious, delicate and beautifully delivered songs ranged from a five-year-old’s wry observation of her mother’s appalling driving skills, to the quite brilliant Agnetta Askeholmen doing a ditty about a little dolphin and a magic fish; and anything in between. She’ll be joining us again in Bognor so if you missed this, for God’s sake get…

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Broken Biscuits No.6.

Idle Eye bang on about the upcoming Broken Biscuit on 29th October – looking forward to be being a part of it !

“I know I bang on about the respective BB line-ups a fair bit, but bloody hell, look at this one! This will be our third at leafy Crystal Palace’s fabulous Antenna Studios and sixth overall, s…

Source: Broken Biscuits No.6.

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Knausgaard: The Man Who Writes About Nothing


Karl Ove Knausgaard’s “My Struggle” series has been described as a literary sensation by the Guardian and The New Yorker, and he has sold one copy for every ten people in his native Norway, where it achieved a cult following. And yet he writes about nothing. A lot. In detail. For six volumes. How come?

…..So he’s going for it. He’s doing that thing that many writers’ aim for, in some ways the Holy Grail: to capture reality in all its ordinariness and (if that’s the easy bit) to take the reader with them on the journey.   

Read more in my article about Karl Ove Knausgaard over at The Honest Ulsterman, alongside lots of other great features



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