Peter Mortimer - poet, playwright, journalist, publisher - has lived in the North East for thirty 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.
His 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.
In November 2013, Peter Mortimer visited Lebanon again, and on his return wrote about his visit for Newcastle's Journal. "I grew excited on this visit," he says, "by an idea slowly forming of inviting members of the Tyneside Jewish community to some future performance here by the Palestinians."
In an editorial, the Journal commented that "Mr Mortimer is a man of optimism and idealism - and there aren't too many of those in the Middle East. ... he is making an effort - and a few more people doing that in the Middle East would be most welcome."
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.
"Now to work at the next dream - to help create an Inpress bookshop. Inpress is the splendid Newcastle-based organisation which supports and nurtures about 40 of we small presses throughout the country, and several of we publisher members feel it is time it had its own retail base. Bookshops fight back at last... More anon."
Peter Mortimer's 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.
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.
The play takes place on Tyneside, Merseyside, in Montreal, Canada and on the Western Front.
A professional cast of seven were joined by around ten young drama students aged around 18 - 20 drawn from local North Tyneside schools and colleges. It was directed by Jackie Fielding and funded by Arts Council England, the Heritage Lottery Fund and North Tyneside Council.
Photograph © Dylan Mortimer 2011; used with permission.
Website designed and maintained for Peter Mortimer by Cornwell Internet
Last update: 1st October 2014