The New Cockaigne

Written by Catherine Smith


Performed by actors Andy Sykes and Laura Freeman

Live music arranged and performed by Sam Walker

Directed by Mark C. Hewitt 

Graphic design (right) © Rob MacDonald


The New Cockaigne is a rollicking ballad of revolution and fantastical carnal excess by poet Catherine Smith. It is published in pamphlet form by Frogmore Press.

The live literature production has been developed in partnership with LLL and was first performed upstairs at the famous Lewes Arms pub in November 2014 (see photos below).

This is a vigorous in-yer-face production that gives no concessions to good taste or decorum as the revolution and then the counter revolution are declared within the space of half an hour.

A wonderful pub poetry performance for literature festivals, the work is now available for bookings as part of our plans for a national pub crawl.

The Writer

Catherine Smith writes prose, poetry and drama. Her poems and short stories have been broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4.

In January 2004 she was voted 'one of the top ten poets to have emerged in the UK in the last ten years' by Mslexia magazine, and in June 2004 she was listed as one of the 'Next Generation' poets by The Guardian. Her first full poetry collection, The Butcher's Hands, was awarded a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and her latest, Lip, (Smith/Doorstop, 2007), was described by Daljit Nagra as 'a unique comic-serious exploration of the conflicts between contemporary mores and physical desires.' It was short-listed for The Forward Prize for Best Collection. 

Her short stories (several prize-winning) have been widely published in the UK includung collection of short stories, The Biting Point, published in 2010 by Speechbubble Books.

Her first play for radio, Jellybelly, was broadcast on BBC Radio Four in 2005.  

Catherine teaches creative writing for the University of Sussex and the Arvon Foundation and runs a creative writing enrichment group for young writers at Varndean 6th Form College in Brighton

'Always brave, always original, always full of surprises and sometimes very sexy, The Biting Point pulls no punches in taking us to the darkness at the very edge of our dreams. Gloriously subversive and beautifully told.' (Vanessa Gebbie)

'Catherine Smith has a voice that beguiles: she draws you in with the everyday then turns the world upside down.' (Robyn Young)

Visit Catherine Smith's website

Audience feedback

"The two lovely young actors delivered the text to a delighted audience as if they'd been speaking in rhyming quatrains all their lives. This event in a packed room above a pub in Lewes put me in mind of the glory days of fringe theatre, when it felt as if anything was possible. Sparkling, pin-sharp, hilarious and ever so slightly scary."

"I loved the rich and textured nature of the verse which was very inspiring and wonderfully humorous. I enjoyed the fact it was Orwellian in it's dealing with dictatorship - very Animal Farm. The performers were excellent and succeeded in giving the piece shape and body."

"The actors and the musician were very engaging and skilled. The informality of the room worked well, giving great opportunity for the cast to interact with the audience. Loved the performance starting with the day's news ... felt very immediate and fresh."

"The New Cockaigne was a fun, lively piece of performance poetry with the added bonus of liquorice allsorts. Loved the accessible way it engaged with contemporary politics and explored the choices we make as individuals."

"I thoroughly enjoyed The New Cockaigne. I left wanting to sample every earthly delight! Here's to the coup d' etat!"