Peter Mortimer


Peter Mortimer, Chess Traveller

For the month of August 2016, Peter Mortimer has been travelling the highways and byways of the UK on a journey that was to result in the book The Chess Traveller - One Month's Random Games.

This was the plan: at each destination on his travels, he needed to find an opponent to play him at chess. After the game, this opponent would choose the next destination of around 30 miles distance. He would make his way there, find a new opponent who after the game will choose the next destination and the process would be repeated. He would play 16 games (the number of chess pieces) and travel about 500 miles, the daily journey dictated by others. "I'm an occasional, average chess player," he said, "so will lose some games and, I hope, win the odd one." The book will comprise the notated games plus the peripatetic impressions, thoughts and observations on the country, a sideways look at the contemporary UK (or some parts of it) from a journey dictated by chess and by others.


The end of August, and after quite a chess/bike odyssey, I'm back home. I managed to play 14 games of chess and travelled 370 miles on the journey back from Lossiemouth and cycled the last 30 mile leg from Hexham in Northumberland to Cullercoats, following the final game played against Sara Jane Palmer. The weather varied between baking hot and very cold mist and rain on the wild Scottish moors (and crossing the border at Carter Bar). I won 11 games, drew two and lost one, though I came to realise most chess players are only occasional participants and the single really dedicated chess player I came up against, beat me.

Tiring, often lonely, but never uninteresting, the 19 day adventure brought me into contact with a whole variety of places and people never previously encountered and I wrote a 30,000 word first draft of the book while on the road. More than 90 per cent of the journey was on the bike. On three occasions, necessity dictated I take a car lift - all explained in the book, the second draft of which I have now begun. To be published in 2017 by Red Squirrel Press. More later!

Peter Mortimer outside 'the Iron House'

Peter Mortimer welcoming visitors at the new IRON Press gate.
Gate made by John Charlton.Original logo design by Geoff Laws.
Photo by Dylan Mortimer

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. In 2015 they gave in to popular demand and staged a second festival, Eclectic IRON. A third festival, IRON in the Soul, has been announced for 2017.

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.

He has recently started blogging on the Inpress website: read more about it here.

Hail the Bike

Peter Mortimer was special guest at the launch of the Active Travel Network, held during Cycle City Active City in Newcastle in June 2015. During the event he gave a talk at the Great North Museum Hancock Museum which the organisers describe as a veritable "ode to the bicycle". You can now read 'Hail the Bike' online.

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Last update: 31st August 2016