MW Bewick is a poet, editor, journalist and teacher. He lives in Wivenhoe, Essex, with his wife, the artist Ella Johnston. Together they run Dunlin Press.
And here’s a slightly longer version:
MW (Martin) Bewick was born in West Cumbria, between the edge of the Lake District and the Irish Sea. Leaving his home village in 1989, he briefly attended Sheffield Polytechnic (now Sheffield Hallam University) but left to pursue a nascent career as a guitarist and singer in an indie rock band.
The band, Sullen Child, which had formed back in Cumbria, rehearsed at Red Tape Studios, which had been set up as a recording studios and practice rooms by the city council. The building also housed the Human League’s state-of-the art digital studio as well as the Comsat Angels’ recording studio, Axis. Sullen Child performed at various venues around the city during 1990, including Take Two in Attercliffe, supporting Indie Chart-friendly acts, before disbanding.
In 1991, he moved to Durham, having taken a job in Our Price Music. Over the next decade, he would work – for shorter or longer periods – in 18 different branches of the high-street record chain. While at work in Durham, he was asked by Robin Williamson, once of the Incredible String Band, to open for him at a concert in Durham Cathedral. Williamson had never heard him play, and he politely declined.
In 1994, he returned to higher education, starting an English and European literature degree at the University of Essex. On his third day there he met Ella Johnston, who had just left Chelsea College of Art to begin an art history and literature degree. They married eight years later.
Graduating with first-class honours, he immediately began studying for an MA in critical and cultural theory, having being awarded funding from the British Academy. A PhD on the work of Scottish writer and Booker prize-winner James Kelman, also funded, followed straight afterwards. While at Essex, he also taught an MA literature module, Dedefining Britain.
Having moved to London with Ella, while conducting his research, he was also for a while literary manager at the Blue Elephant Theatre in Camberwell. In 2002 he and director Antonio Ribeiro produced Firelines, by Simon Miles and Mark Rickman, for a short run at the theatre. He also ran a creative writing course and developed and workshopped drama from local writers. During this period he also assisted on the news, sport, picture, and circulation desks, at Express Newspapers – occasionally writing short pieces of copy for listings pages.
With Ella, at around the turn of the millennium, he began the Sloganeers art project. Sloganeers produced digital and analogue writing and images, using the relatively recently accessible internet for website content, and traditional DIY techniques such as photocopying. A series of Sloganeers pamphlets were distributed by hand to venues around Hoxton, London, and in Glasgow. An exhibition, Banco Internacionale de Sloganeers, was held at The Foundry, the bar and art complex owned by The KLF and run by their roadie, Gimpo.
In 2002, he began work as a copy editor at Book Club Associates before entering a 15-year period of full-time and freelance work in journalistic and editorial roles at various London creative agencies. During this time, he worked on accounts for clients as diverse as The Royal Society, The Lord Mayor’s Show, British Gas, The Scott Polar Research Institute, Lloyds TSB, and Tesco. This work variously led him to ghost write a foreword for Melvyn Bragg, cross Europe many times for travel-writing commissions, and become managing editor for a newsstand slimming magazine.
As something of an antidote, he also performed his own growing list of songs at singer-songwriter and folk clubs, at venues including The Borderline, The Slaughtered Lamb and The Betsey Trotwood, and with friends at Bush Hall. An EP as Acertone, with David Cleaver, was released in 2008, and a solo EP as MW Bewick followed in 2010, both on the independent Hard Graft records. During this period he also began a long-running weekly blog of ‘100-Word Fiction’.
In 2011, he and Ella moved (back) to Wivenhoe, sometimes commuting to editorial jobs in London and sometimes freelancing from the ‘home office’. For more than a year, Martin broadcast a radio show MW Bewick’s Strange Brew on Radio Wivenhoe (now Colne Radio). In 2012 he completed writing a novel, The Falling Over of Adam Noone, and had short fiction published in the now-defunct Smoke: A London Peculiar magazine. In 2013 he began attending Poetry Wivenhoe, where he occasionally read his own poetry.
With Ella, in 2014, he founded Dunlin Press, an independent publisher focusing on ‘emerging writers and visual artists whose work is intelligent, thought-provoking and beautiful, and which for various reasons might prove difficult to place with more established or commercial publishers’.
By 2019, Dunlin Press had published seven books:
- Est: Collected Reports from East Anglia (2015) is a unique collection of prose, poetry and reportage that takes the reader on a journey through East Anglia;
- The Migrant Waders (2016) is a collection of illustration, evocative prose, poetry and reportage that follows the migration routes of wading and shore birds from the high arctic to the tropics;
- Scarecrow (2017) is MW Bewick’s debut collection of poetry;
- Priced Out (2017), by artist Tinsel Edwards, is a personal and powerful look at the declining state of housing in the capital through the eyes of an artist;
- The Orphaned Spaces (2018) is an illustrated exploration of overlooked areas of natural beauty – edgelands, ex-industrial, derelict and brownfield sites, and the sometimes rare flora and fauna that is found there;
- Lessons for an Apprentice Eel Catcher (2018) is the debut poetry collection from poet Alex Toms;
- Port (2019) is an anthology of prose and poetry about ports, harbours and havens all across the UK and beyond, ranging from giant container ports to fishing quays in remote locations.
Aside from Scarecrow, Martin’s poems have appeared in journals including The Cormorant, The High Window, Under the Radar, The Mechanics’ Institute Review, Envoi, The Stinging Fly, Sentinel Literary Quarterly and The Interpreter’s House, as well as anthologies including The Cottongrass Appreciation Society (Maytree Press, 2019) and Tempest (Patrician Press, 2019). He has performed around the UK and at poetry/book festivals.
In 2019 Martin began work as programme leader for the creative and professional writing degree course at London College of Creative Media (LCCM). He also assisted with the editing of musician and poet Martin Newell’s second memoir, The Greatest Living Englishman.
A new collection of poems is forthcoming in 2020.
Scarecrow, his first full collection of poetry, is out now and available here. His writing can also be found in The Orphaned Spaces, The Migrant Waders and Est: Collected Reports from East Anglia, available from Dunlin Press and independent bookshops. For more published work see the Publications page.
Along with recent news, this site also contains an archive of MW Bewick’s long-running Possible Fictions project, a weekly short piece of flash fiction that ran for more than six years up until September 2016. Each entry is precisely 100 words long and was inspired, however loosely, by real events occurring in the world that week.