Peter Mortimer

Peter Mortimer at the Journal Culture Awards

Peter Mortimer - poet, playwright, journalist, publisher - has lived in the North East for more than forty years, and many of his books and plays have been published and performed here. He is used to writing about difficult places: against Foreign Office advice he wandered round Yemen; he set up a children's theatre group in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon and, over one summer, walked the length of Britain with one dog and no money, dependent on the kindness of strangers to provide accommodation and food.

Peter Mortimer is founder and editor of IRON Press, the independent press which has championed new quality writing since 1973. In May 2013 IRON celebrated its 40th birthday with the IRON Age Festival, based in its home village of Cullercoats. In April 2014, the IRON Age won the award for Best Event Tyneside at the esteemed Journal Culture Awards 2013 (picture, right).

Peter Mortimer writes: "As far as I know this is the first time a small independent press has been featured in these prestigious awards and it's a fillip for all of us who beaver away in this unsung and underfunded area of the arts. It's also an affirmation of the non-corporate. The Festival achieved what it did without an arts consultant, business plan or feasibility study in sight. It was down to the imagination, goodwill, dedication and good humour of the handful of people who created it, the artists who took part and the audiences who filled every venue. Oh, and of course - the unique nature of Cullercoats seafront! Everyone seemed to appreciate they were experiencing something special."

Coming in 2015: Eclectic Iron! More information on the Iron Press website.

The Mortimer House in Cullercoats

The Mortimer House - Cullercoats' Cultural Quarter!

Peter Mortimer's books include: The Last of the Hunters: Life with the Fishermen in North Shields; I Married the Angel of the North (poetry); Off the Wall: the Journey of a Play; and Cool for Qat, which grew out of his commission to write a play about the 1930 Yemeni seamen's riot in South Shields; and Camp Shatila - a Writer's Chronicle, which grew from the two months towards the end of 2008, when he lived in Shatila Refugee Camp, Beirut.

Death at Dawn

His latest full-length play for Cloud Nine Theatre Company, commissioned by the Tynemouth World War One Commemoration Project, was a major production staged to mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War One.

Poster for 'Death at Dawn': You can order men to kill... you cannot order them to love

Death at Dawn is based on a real case, that of the young North Shields soldier William Hunter who was court-martialled and executed in France in 1916 for desertion. More than 300 soldiers were shot at dawn by the British Army in the Great War but Hunter's case is unusual because sentence was carried out even though the authorities believed at the time that he had signed on under-age. In almost every other similar case, the death sentence was reprieved. For reasons unknown, the sentence on Hunter was carried out. The play examines possible reasons and also explores the realities behind a policy that saw the army shoot its own men.

Death at Dawn has now been published by Red Squirrel Press: read more about the book and the play.

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Photograph © Dylan Mortimer 2011; used with permission.

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Last update: 12th February 2015