Heanor’s Cathy has the poetess pedigree

The poetess teaching her art as Derbyshire's poet laureate between 2005 and 2007.
The poetess teaching her art as Derbyshire's poet laureate between 2005 and 2007.

After being named Derbyshire’s poet laureate and toasting the release of her fifth collection , Heanor wordsmith Cathy Grindrod career has certainly hit some highs.

But the mum of one, from Buxton Avenue, says her latest accolade is among her greatest achievements.

Cathy receives an honorary degree at the University of Derby at the Assembly Rooms in the city.

Cathy receives an honorary degree at the University of Derby at the Assembly Rooms in the city.

At the start of 2014 her 20-year writing career was recognised with a University of Derby honorary degree of Master of Letters for inspiring countless individuals to take up the art across the county.

And Cathy could not be more thrilled.

She said: “It certainly does rank highly.

“I was one of five chosen this year and I had to say to myself is this really true?

“When I found out I was delighted, it’s just really nice to be recognised for what you have done.”

Cathy’s life has seen her move from literary connoisseur to poet and more recently into teaching.

Now aged 52, her talent for the written word was clear back in 1983, after graduating from Manchester University with a distinction grade bachelor’s degree in English.

A number of administrative posts in colleges and universities followed before Cathy discovered a love of writing herself.

It was while working for Nottingham Trent University when, having recently married, she began to develop an interest in poetry, writing amusing rhymes for departing colleagues.

“I had always loved English at school,” she said. “I had always had this desire to be a writer. People that write always say they have.

“I worked at Basford Hall College and whenever someone left I would write them a poem, they would read it out when it was presented to them.

“People told me I was good at writing and that I should take it more seriously.”

So in 1995 Cathy joined Nottingham Writers’ Club with a view to meet other poets and enter her work into competitions.

“I decided at the end of the year that poetry was the thing I wanted to do,” she continued. “I just went into researching how I could get my work published.”

Slowly but surely her work began to creep into print. Local and then national poetry magazines ran copies of her early efforts, ‘Something the Heart Could Hold’, about a murder near her then home in Sherwood, and ‘New Lives’, about her daughter Amy’s first day at school.

It was not long before she published her first volume of poems, forwarded by the acclaimed poet U A Fanthorpe. The Side Effects authoress had declared herself a Cathy Grindrod fan.

In 2005 Cathy earned the coveted position of Derbyshire poet laureate, which involved travelling the county for two years “both writing poems about Derbyshire and inspiring others to do the same”, she said.

And the county has remained a constant source of inspiration for the writer.

Having released her fifth collection in 2009, called The Sky Head On, Cathy’s volumes of poems take in all manner of subjects from the Nailers of Belper, to the Eyam plague victims and the Matlock Bath illuminations.

There might be plenty of romantic hillsides to inspire any Derbyshire bard, but Cathy insists that her work is not all ‘about sheep and fields’.

“My poems are all about people,” she said. “About the human condition. Some are funny and some are sad.

“For me it’s all about trying to capture your own experiences and communicating them to other people.

“Heanor actually inspired quite a funny poem. Few people know that the town is the birthplace of Henry Garnet, who was involved in the gunpowder plot. There’s a really interesting story behind him which I made into a humorous poem.”

Currently Cathy is helping pass on her expertise as a freelance working writer and teacher, which sees her holding workshops in schools, care facilities and even prisons.

In a slight deviation she recently wrote a libretto with the VIVA Orchestra and composer James Redwood, to an oratorio, More Glass Than Wall, performed with the 180 schoolchildren at Derby Assembly Rooms and Hardwick Hall.

Since 2009 she has branched out even further from the rhyme and meter medium by writing for theatre and has already seen two prize winning short plays performed. But despite all her recent success, Cathy says those following in her footsteps will need to possess a deep well of perseverance to succeed.

“I didn’t start making a living out of this until I was 40,” she said. “What I always say to people is that you can make your own career, yes.

“But it can take a long time.”

Grab this week’s Ripley and Heanor News to read some of Cathy’s work - out on Thursday, February 20.